Why and When To Make a Video Tutorial

A tutorial is a set of instructions. And there are many ways to deliver this set of instructions to those who need them.

Why is a tutorial required?

The two most popular forms of tutorials are:

  1. A text based tutorial with images and graphics for illustration
  2. A video tutorial that actually shows how perform the actions in the instructions

In this topic we want to talk about how to decide if video tutorial is your best option for a given situation.

Differences between Text based tutorial and Video based tutorial:

A text based tutorial is created by writing a series of instructions that helps user to complete a certain task using your product. To aid the text in the instructions, images and short notes are used to illustrate the steps to be taken. Short notes are used to convey some additional information that are not part of the steps but are useful for the users.

The components of a Text based tutorial are:

  1. Instructions in text
  2. Images to illustrate or pictorially represent the references mentioned in the text
  3. Additional Notes are included to provide information that is not an instructional step

A video tutorial on the other hand, is created mostly by screen capturing a series of steps being performed by an instructor on the product. The instructor shows the steps to be taken, to accomplish the required task that is to be taught through the tutorial.

The components of a Video Tutorial are:

  1. The Video consisting a screen capture of the live action steps taken to complete the task
  2. An audio narration of the video that explains the purpose of each action shown
  3. Additional slides at various points in the video that serve the purposes of
    1. introduction,
    2. conclusion,
    3. explaining concepts using infographics, charts or other images
  4. Call outs to highlight or emphasise an action
  5. Create pan and zoom effects to specific areas on the screen where the action is taking place
  6. Additional captions to ensure there are no communication gaps if the speaker's accent is difficult to understand

When is a video tutorial useful?

Helps you learn more in a shorter span of time

Let’s say that you want to learn how to make a nice breakfast for your wife. You are going to get much further by watching a how-to video on youtube than form a breakfast recipe book within the 30 minutes that you have before your wife wakes up. You also get much more information seeing the live action video, hearing the sounds of cooking and the voice instructions of the cook.

Builds confidence for first time users

For the people who are not at all familiar with a tool or product, a video tutorial is like a comforting blanket. The audio visual information user facilitates better understanding.

Everything else being equal it may feel less of an effort to watch a video

The chances of keeping the viewers attention through a video tutorial is greater than that of a text tutorial.

They can be more impressive that text based tutorials

Watching a live action video is always more impressive than reading text and looking at images.

An effective user assistance tool for the people who prefer Visual Learning

In the world there are different kinds and methods of learning. Auditory learners learn by listening to audio, Visual learners learn by watching the video, Kinaesthetic users learn by reading.

Some situations where text based tutorials are better:

  • You can take a print of the text tutorial and read it anytime. You don't need a computer or the internet.
  • For tutorials that teach complex steps it may be easier to slowly read the instructions and follow along than doing the same with video.
  • Any tutorial that involves lots of typing, a text tutorial is always better. Like programming tutorials.

Some situations where it is best to use a video tutorial:

  • For giving a demo of an electronic gadget.
  • For short installation procedures.
  • For showing how to cook a quick meal.
  • For showing troubleshooting instructions.
  • For showing how to make handicrafts or computer designs.
  • In cases where it is important for the learner to see and hear how its being done.

Types of Video Tutorials

  1. Video tutorials that a user can view and learn from watching
  2. An interactive tutorial created using flash or an interactive web page that lets users complete certain tasks in between video clips
  3. A live webinar being conducted by a live speaker and delivered through netmeeting services like GotoMeeting, Webex, Moxtra etc

I am only going to talk about the first kind of video tutorial in this article series.

Written on September 1, 2015